Find and Fulfill Your Calling in the New Year: New Book by Colorado State University Professor Explores Psychology of Vocation

Note to Reporters: Photos of the book cover and the authors are available with this news release at

Calling – a summons to purposeful work that advances the greater good – can help people find satisfaction and meaning in their careers regardless of their social status or job responsibilities, a Colorado State University professor says in a new book.

Anyone can pursue a calling in their work if they seek opportunities to express their gifts and actively shape their job tasks and work relationships in ways that link to a broader purpose, said Bryan Dik, associate professor of psychology at Colorado State. He is the co-author of “Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation can Change Your Life at Work” with Ryan Duffy, assistant professor at the University of Florida.

The book summarizes, for a general audience, the rapidly growing body of psychological research on what it means to discern and live out a calling in one’s work. To illustrate, the authors offer examples of people living out a calling in often surprising jobs. For example, they describe a custodian at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins who goes beyond her job description to help patients feel comfortable in stressful situations, and who describes her janitorial work as essential in helping patients heal. Similarly, a road construction flagger exuberantly described his calling as fundamentally about keeping people safe on the highway and protecting the lives of co-workers.

“One myth we attack whenever we can is that only specific types of people, within specific types of occupations, can experience their work as a calling,” Dik said. “Understanding what it means to have a calling can help each of us examine our own lives and identify how we can transform our careers and jobs in deeply meaningful, satisfying and life-giving ways – ways that make the world a better place.”

People can help themselves discern their calling in work by following several practical recommendations, including:

• Moving from passive waiting to active engagement in the career choice process;
• Understanding how their gifts (values, interests, personality, etc.) make them uniquely suited for success and satisfaction within some types of work more so than others;
• Integrating spirituality and faith with work;
• Actively seeking ways to use their strengths;
• Linking work tasks to outcomes that enhance the greater good.

The authors also build on existing scholarly research that suggests that “job crafting” can help people experience a calling within their existing positions. They suggest that shaping a job’s constellation of tasks to play to one’s strengths, building more effective workplace relationships, and thinking differently about a job’s nature, purpose and impact can turn jobs and careers into callings.

“Research on what it means to approach work as a calling is a hot topic for social scientists right now,” said Duffy. “Four times the number of studies on the topic have been published in the last five years than in all of history before that.”

The authors, who also recently co-edited a special issue of Journal of Career Assessment on calling research, have generated much of this research in their collaborative work, which dates to 2005.

“We find repeatedly that a sense of calling is perhaps surprisingly prevalent, and that it links to important, real-world career development and well-being outcomes, like job satisfaction and meaning in life,” Dik said. “Several recent studies have started to uncover how a sense of calling plays out for both students and employees, and career counselors, managers and HR professionals are beginning to apply these results.

“We felt it was time to present all this work in a book that is accessible to students, employees, job-seekers—basically anyone interested in finding more meaning in their work.”

People looking for a greater sense of calling may want to take career tests or online assessment systems, but should evaluate them first, said the authors, who have created a list of quality-control criteria at a companion website,

Dik and CSU psychology chair Kurt Kraiger also have spun their research on online assessment tools into a company, called JobZology, which helps other companies use a scientific assessment to determine the best “match” between employees and employers and help people find the best fit. For more information on JobZology, go to